Managing media: FX Library

While the technology that surrounds us might appear to be the most crucial aspect of any workflow, what is actually far far more crucial is the data itself, and none more so than sound. I learned very early on in my career that anyone can go buy ProTools etc – what actually makes the difference is what you feed it ie what you readily have access to in terms of source material.
When I first started work, a year or two before Protools was invented, the FX Library was stored on quarter inch tape & logged on paper. SLOW access & slowly wearing out. Next was DAT, MEDIUM/SLOW access, better fidelity. Then came hard drives – I still have an original Digidesign ProStore 1 Gig Drive which cost $9,000 back in 1993 (its like the inverse of real estate!) And so now that mass drive space is cheaper than ever the tools we use to access it become even more important eg aside from the boot drive my Intel Mac has three 750GB drives mounted internally. This holds my main sound effects & ambience library, which is also duplicated on external drives on a server so that the other FX editors can acess them without effecting my machine… But how to find your way through over 350,000 sounds?
After much research I invested in SoundMiner – a free standing program which is written specifically for this purpose. You can catalogue & access any files on drives, auditioning & tagging them as you search. Two very handy audition features include being able to pitch shift as you audition and also insert VST plugins & monitor through them as you audition. It is also possible to tranfers the sounds into ProTools with (or without) the pitch shift and/or VST plugins… The only feature to this that i could wish for is to be able to audition files backwards (& yes I have requested it)

In terms of searching you can use boolean arguments & SoundMiner also has a thesaurus built in; so if you search for ‘explosion’, it will also find ‘bang’ ‘crash’ ‘shot’ etc… But one of the best features has to be its integration with ProTools – if you find a sound & hit ‘spot to ProTools’ it will copy/convert, import & then spot the sound onto the timeline in ProTools, wherever you left your cursor! This is genius & you can only really appreciate what a difference it makes to productivity once you are used to using SoundMiner in this way & then suddenly try working without it (eg on the mix stage)…. Another releated great feature of SoundMiner is the ability to tag sounds to a bin & then transfer the entire bin onto the timeline in ProTools, with the files on the same track, butted together. This is fantastic for say building a library of ambiences for a film eg you can spend an hour or two auditioning & tagging files & then transfer the bin to ProTools & your ambience library appears on a track waiting to be cut.
Now my experiences with SoundMiner have been only with version 3 & the developers have been demoing a major new version at trade shows for the last few months, so if you are looking at it, it is worth checking out the new version 4 first as it is quite radically different to v3. Apart from being Intel native (ie much faster) they have also rebuilt the workflow for it… I have only recently recieved a pre-release copy & once I have my head around it will write a full review, but needless to say SoundMiner is second only to ProTools in allowing me to do my work – efficiently & creatively, it allows me to make better choices in that I can easily check out all the options rather than use the first option that works…

The two other programs we rely on are AudioFinder which is a brilliant program (especially for only $70!!!) for browsing & auditioning audio directly on your drives, or on the network – I would buy the network version of SoundMiner for this purpose but I find the pricing prohibitive.

The last handy little program I use is DiskTracker which is very useful for making snapshots of offline media (eg archive drives/DVDRs etc) & then searching the snapshots etc….

As my library grows to consume any & all free space, my next upgrade is going to be for a proper RAID – I’d appreciate any reccomendations or experiences people have had… the best option I’ve found so far:
Enhance Technology 8 bay drive enclosure
For library access, performance isnt such an issue as the most I ever want to audition is a 5.1 file ie 6 tracks of 24 bit 48k… and I always transfer selected files to my work drives. I appreciate there are plenty of options for RAIDs for video editing but those also require deep pockets when all I really want is to just put six or eight 1 Terabyte drives in a single metal box & hook it up via Firewire 800…. Any thoughts?

ps one other nifty little helper that I use for file renaming: ABetterFinderRename

3 thoughts on “Managing media: FX Library

  1. Ricard Casals

    Very clear and useful writing.
    I’ve tested Soudminer six years a go and it was perfect, but the company was mainly focused on dubbing films rather than editing audio for (new) films.

    Is Digidesign Digibase designed to do this audio management and browsing? But it works inside ProTools.


  2. Pingback: More than 50 Articles/Tutorials about Sound Design, Recording and more, Plus Wooshes Sound Design

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